“Nobody stopped to hear him, though he played so sweet and high.” I’m might be making a big mistake right now. I listening to Joni Mitchell as I write. Knowing how hard to make it in the music business or any of the arts and hearing her voice is making me a little sad. It takes a huge amount of work. It takes a huge amount of talent. Worse. It takes a lot of luck… and marketing and support. And, it ain’t getting easier. It’s getting harder. Like most arts, the music industry is fractured. So, is the photo industry. Book publishing too. I keep reading that movies and television are next. But, I’m not really complaining. I’ve been pretty lucky. I never, ever, thought I’d ever really retire. Besides, sitting around would make me crazy. Heh, heh.
The picture. Yes, yes. I made some pretty clean band pictures. They show just the band playing and interacting with me. But, I like this one best. It says everything you need to know about playing for pennies on the street. Most people just sort of pass right by. Some people stop for a few moments. Some people drop some change or a dollar bill into their tip basket. It is Christmastime, after all. I know. It’s not the sharpest picture in the world. I was just telling a friend of mine that sometimes certain kind of news coverages seem pretty flat to me because the pictures are too clean. Too sterile. Sometimes, I like the picture to be a little funky, like film. Besides, as they say, “sometimes your best picture is not your sharpest picture.”
One more thing. The picture was made on Royal Street, way downriver. Sort of a storage place for a band to be working.
I needed a little break from the holiday. So I took the poodle and went for a walk in The French Quarter. I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in some other place and I told him I was doing that. He seemed amazed. Going to The French Quarter for most of the world means flying from somewhere else, and hiding out in a hotel. Us? It’s a ten minute drive. I haven’t felt much like making pictures lately. I don’t know why. So main intent was to have a nice walk. But, I always carry a camera. The air was brisk and chilly. The light was just about right and I started making a few snaps. The next the thing I knew I was actually having a little fun.
The Quarter was very crowded. I couldn’t figure it out. The people seemed more touristy than usual. They were getting lost, wandering into the street to almost be run over by a mule drawn carriage. Or, by a speeding taxi. Some were standing on darkened streets trying to figure out how to use Google maps, all the while risking something bad because they looked lost. When I see that, I generally I ask if they need help. The Quarter may look like an adult Disneyland, but it can get a little dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing and look a little lost.
Anyway, it finally came to me. The Quarter was crowded because there were all sorts of people in town for a big football team game at The Superdome. Two out-of-town football teams. Grambling and Southern, or something like that. Normally I stay away from crowds. But, not tonight. I’m glad I stayed around. I made a lot of good pictures including these two which just seem a little sparkly and colorful to me. Maybe it’s the magic of the season. I don’t always see The Quarter this way. Often, to me, it is gritty and dirty.
The pictures? Oh, they are simple. See light, frame the picture, push the button. Not much post production. Mostly just to give the pictures the sparkly, gem like quality that I saw.
Yeah. Flying trains. Or, something like that. Prior to about 1937, in order to cross The Mississippi River, you had to use barges and ferries. Even the railroad companies had to do that. Along came the Kingfisher. Governor Huey. P. Long. He grew a lot of programs very quickly. He helped people who needed help. He ordered this bridge built as a way to lessen travel time between the east and west banks of the river. He was also corrupt. He was assassinated in office. At the time, the best way to travel by rail to the Western States was to do it from the west bank. But, New Orleans and just about everything else was on the eastern shore. So, the trains had to cross the river. As you know, trains don’t float. Those barges and ferries were time-consuming. You had to break down trains and move the cars slowly across the river. This bridge begat other bridges. But, none quite so industrial as this one. While trains crossed the river in good form and time, driving a car on the bridge was another issue. The bridge was built for smaller, more narrow cars. So, over the past few years, the bridge underwent a major overhaul to account for modern cars and trucks. It’s a great ride now. Local folks call it the Huey P.
The road on which this picture was made is called River Road. I’ve told you about this in the past. There are two river roads. One on The Eastbank and one on The Westbank. They are really like a meandering country road that follows that bends and curves of the river. If you are not in a hurry to get anywhere, and you aren’t driving at rush hour, it’s a great and relaxing drive. I use it to travel from the city to the huge shopping center that is located in Elmwood. Not that I’m a great shopper, but there is a huge Home Depot there, as well a big discount athletic goods store. Oh yeah. My primary care doc’s office is located pretty much under the bridge about five minutes from where this picture was made.
The picture? Well, well, well… I’ve tried to make this picture for two years. Something was wrong with it every time I tried. Two much traffic on River Road. No trains on the bridge. The wrong sky. Hazy conditions. You name it. But, finally. The air was sparkling clear between storms. The clouds were wonderful and wonder of wonders, there was not one train but two on the bridge. Of course, I’m was driving at 30 mph at the time, but… you know me.
Pay phones. We just don’t think of them anymore. I know there a few working phones around New Orleans. But, I couldn’t tell you where. And, I know I can’t tell you the last time that I used one. I was a very early adopter of cellphones. I saw my first one in Hong Kong in 1989. It was one of those huge Motorola hand sets that required the user to carry around a briefcase as a battery. That didn’t last very long. They got smaller and more affordable. I had to have one. I must have bought one of the earliest smallish models. Now, many of us use a smart phone of some type. I use an iPhone, but that’s because my computers are also Apple products. The wonder of it is that I carry a computer around in my pocket. A computer that is more powerful than my early desktop models.
Boy. Did I get turned around.
What I really wanted to write about was my growing collection of decommissioned and broken down old pay phones and phone booths. I photograph them while I am really working on something else. If I see one, I take a moment and make a picture of what is really abandoned scrap. You’d think the telephone company would remove them, but I suppose it’s cheaper to just leave them to rot. Or, be vandalized. Or, be painted. Or, tagged. I found this one in The Bywater.
Some of them are pretty ugly and beat up. But, this one sort off has a nice red, white and blue accidental paint scheme. Some taggers don’t seem all that happy. If you read what they wrote, you’ll see.
Anyway. It’s the night before Thanksgiving. Nobody is stirring. It’s 27 degrees. In New Orleans. I have nothing to do tomorrow except cook. And eat.
Finally. A new computer. I am sooooooooo behind. But, most businesses like mine are calling it a day at around noon so people can get into the chaos called Thanksgiving travel. That gives me a little time to catch up. No, no, no. I’m not working tomorrow. But, this computer is the fastest one that I’ve ever owned, so maybe I can compress two days into maybe six hours. We’ll see.
Enough about that.
We had two days of storms in New Orleans. It rained hard. It misted. There was a little ice. And, it is very, very cold. Nothing that unusual. Wait. Did I say that? It’s very unusual for Southeast Louisiana.
This is my favorite bridge. You know. The one that connects the Lower Ninth Ward from The Upper Ninth ward where it spans the Industrial Canal. It really isn’t the subject of the picture. The rainy conditions are. In order to do that, a drive by shot was needed. I swear that one day…
I will likely publish something tomorrow. But, if something gets in the way, Y’all have a great Thanksgiving. Be grateful for whatever this past year brought you, good and bad.
I’m sort of limping along here. I think a new computer is in the day’s plans since my main computer need the hardware for its LCD. That is the most expensive part you can replace. So… Ouch. An early Christmas. Or not.
The picture is from my Central City work. Needs a bit of reworking.
I’ve posted a picture of this place in the past. But, not like this. Or, from this day. I made this picture while I was doing my drive by thing after I photographed the remains of The Le Beau Mansion. It seems right to me that the skies opened up for what would be a two-day rain. The storm also brought in very cold temperatures. As I write it is 39 degrees. It will get colder. That is cold for us. This is a piece of the storm that dumped snow in New Mexico and ice in Texas.
The bridge is on St. Claude Avenue as it crosses from the Upper Ninth Ward to the Lower Ninth ward in New Orleans. It is a kind of drawbridge that is called a bascule bridge. It once carried both cars and trains over The Industrial Canal. Today, it just carries cars.
The picture. Hmmmm. I suppose you know that it is my version of a drive by picture. Set the camera functions to all things auto. Hold the camera above the dashboard and push the button. Let the camera do its thing. Hope you don’t hit the bridge. Kidding. Of course, there is heavy post production. I added a lot of “grunge” and “rust.” Hopefully, it gives you an idea of my vision.
The late Beatle, George Harrison once wrote, “All Things Must Pass.” An, so they do. But, none of us expect them to pass as quickly as they sometimes do. Back around Halloween, I published a picture of the haunted Le Beau Mansion. I called it spooky. A lot of you liked the eerie feel of the picture. It was not the first time I published some picture of the place. You all know I like broken down, abandoned places. I returned often. I thought I’d probably return many times as the months passed by.
That was not to be. Yesterday, I likely made my next-to-last pictures of the place.
You see seven people, high on pot and booze, broke into it. They thought it would be a good idea to call the ghosts out by lighting a fire. Fire and old abandoned places do not mix. At about 6 am my phone tweeted. It thinks it has to tell me everything. Usually, it’s about stuff I don’t really care about knowing right that minute. Not this time. A three alarm fire was raging out of control at my favorite New Orleans area building. By the time that we arrived all that was left were the brick fireplaces and charred embers.
I made a few picture that I thought would do it justice. I’ll go back again in the next few days when it isn’t an active crime scene and work a little closer. What else can I do?
We were hungry. Once again, lunch came after 2pm. We beat a hasty retreat to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Chalmette. I don’t go there often. It’s pretty far from home. But, it’s good and I was happy to be there. I realized I was in the right place at the right time.
I also realized something else.
“Don’t cry because it’s over.” “Smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss.
I am truly grateful that a friend of mine took me to this place about two years ago and that I’ve been able to document something that passed before me. Two years seem like the blink of the eye.
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